Back in November 2014, Phil Wilmott published an article in the Stage called “my 10 golden rules of auditioning”, explaining what it is like for the audition panel and what you can do to make things run as easily as possible. Actress and Blogger Katie Brennan then replied with “my 10 golden rules for audition panels” highlighting the other side of the table and what actors auditioning would like to see happen. Intrigued by these articles, I decided to go along to the audition room for a new show this week to see how it works for myself.
It’s a lot to ask for an actor to travel, sometimes to the outskirts of London, sing a song for two minutes and then go home with very little in the way of feedback. But sadly the panel are sometimes seeing 100 people per day, for several days and giving feedback to everyone just isn’t possible. Why not just give them a few words of advice after their audition you might ask? Well that would be the obvious and courteous thing to do, however the decision of whether you are through to the next round or not doesn’t come from just one person. The musical director, director, producer and choreographer will all have a chance to put their opinions in the pot after the auditionee has left the room and if one person were to tell the auditionee they were amazing, this could give false hope that they have done well when actually they might not be right for the part.
The audition is your time to make an impression on the panel. Shake all of their hands when you enter the room. Don’t wait for them to ask you something because it will usually just be ‘what are you going to sing today?’. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself and maybe tell a funny story about your journey or something that has happened to you so far (even if you make it up). If you can make the panel laugh or feel they have connected with you in some way you will have their full attention during your song because they will feel more of a rapport with you. Also, if you get the job, you are going to be spending a lot of time with these people in the rehearsal room and you all need to feel like you could work together. If you scurry in like a mouse, sing and leave, you aren’t allowing much of yourself to be seen. Don’t wait for them to ask you things. This is your time to shine so take control. But obviously not to the extent where they have to ask you to leave!
Don’t go over the top with makeup or perfume. You don’t want to be remembered for chocking the panel to death and it needs to be obvious if you’re a man or a woman and not just someone in Halloween makeup. Think about your outfit. If you wear something particularly nice it might strike up a conversation with the panel. Equally if you wear something horrific it might make you be remembered for the wrong reasons!
Know the words! If you have chosen an audition song then make sure you know it. Nerves can get the better of you in the audition room so you have to know the song inside out so you don’t stumble. If you do mess up, it may not be a big deal if the panel like you so pick yourself up and carry on. Don’t put your head in your hands and apologise. Use your acting skills and pretend it hasn’t happened. Bring a selection of songs with you and offer your choices to the panel as they will appreciate being given the choice of what they want you to sing.
Predict what questions you might be asked. If you are auditioning for an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, there is a pretty good chance you might get asked what your favourite song or show of his is. This is probably not the best time to say you are more of a Sondheim fan or show your lack of musicals theatre knowledge by obviously trying to think of the names of some other shows he has done. You might then be expected to expand on your reasons for your choice so be prepared for that one.
I think from my little experience of auditioning, my only advice is to give it your all. This is your five minute opportunity to impress the panel, not only with your singing but with your personality. If you come out and know you did everything you could then you can leave happy. Sadly, in a lot of job interviews, in every walk of life, you can find yourself going back several times for interviews only to be told someone else has got the job ‘because you were slightly more nervous’ or some silly reason that means they just had to pick one. Luckily in theatre there may be other roles within the show that you might be considered for and so there are more options available. However unlike an office job, what you look like will matter depending on what characters the panel are casting. You could be too young looking, too old looking or even too pretty looking for what the want. But all may not be lost. By meeting the panel, you may well stick in their minds for other roles they are casting.
West End Wilma